A polar bear with a connection to Manitoba has died at the San Francisco Zoo.
Uulu died Friday at the age of 36. The 545-pound female was the oldest polar bear in the United States.
She died of congestive heart failure, and old age.
The zoo adopted Uulu when she was three years old, when she was scheduled to be euthanized for constantly rummaging through the dump in Churchill.
The zoo says Uulu was a curious bear whose fur was always brown because she was always digging in the dirt.
Also, in February, Uulu famously frolicked in 10 tons of snow that was brought in to help celebrate International Polar Bear Day.
(pictures by Marianne Hale, courtesy of San Francisco Zoo)
Here is the full statement from the San Francisco Zoo:
SAN FRANCISCO – The polar bear beloved by the SF Zoo community passed away Friday, April 14, 2017, after experiencing rapidly declining health due to congestive heart failure and advanced age. At 36 years old, “Uulu” was one of the oldest polar bears in any Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) facility.
Her long life speaks to the quality care she received from the Zoo’s animal caretakers, veterinarians and wellness experts. She was the focus of several behavioral studies on geriatric animal care and was featured in a published paper in the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums journal about aging animal care at SF Zoo. This thoughtful approach was highlighted in the news in May of 2016.
Uulu was the center of attention on special “snow days”. Twice in 2016, ten tons of snow was blown into her habitat as an enrichment treat. The most recent snow day was Friday, November 11, when more than 6,000 visitors watched her roll and slide in the snow. Over the last few years, she has been celebrated on International Polar Bear Day, which calls attention to the impact of climate change. SF Zoo’s most recent celebration on February 25, 2017, drew thousands of guests.
Her caretakers went to great lengths to give the 545-pound bear the very best, including plenty of her favorite foods – romaine lettuce and chicken. Uulu had a curious nature that made her a favorite of visitors and staff. She could often be found digging in the dirt, which turned her white fur brown in color. Her habitat doubled in size with the addition of a landscaped yard in 2013, offering even more opportunities to play and get dirty.
“We are all tremendously saddened by the passing of our polar bear. She was an amazing animal ambassador and helped to educate millions of visitors over the years about polar bear conservation,” said Tanya M. Peterson, President of San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. “Uulu was well-known by many Zoo guests and she will be missed by all who connected with, and cared for her over the years.”
SF Zoo rescued Uulu when she was about three years old. She came from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada where she, her siblings and mom were local “problem bears”. They were caught multiple times foraging at the local dump and even attempting to enter a home.
Currently, “Uulu” was the only polar bear at SF Zoo, however plans are in place to design and build a new polar bear facility on the west end of the property. The arctic tundra habitat would include plunge pools and opportunities for animals to see and smell the ocean. It is part of a larger concept to connect San Francisco Zoo & Gardens with the coast. A seed project is beginning to take shape, but it will take several years for full build out.